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Thursday, 23 November 1905

Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) - I shall certainly, vote for the amendment, because I think it takes the heart out of the motion.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator does not desire to vote in such a way as to appear to be hostile to Japan.

Senator O'KEEFE - I recognise the truth of Senator Pearce's statement, that efforts have been made by those opposed to the White Australia policy to make it appear that those in favour of it are hostile to Japan, and are not anxious to retain cordial relations with the Japanese nation. If the amendment is carried, it will take the heart out of the motion and entirely defeat its object, whilst it will affirm that Australia desires to retain friendly relations with Japan. As amended, it will be a harmless motion which the most rabid advocate of the White Australia policy will be able to support. Whether honorable senators believe in that policy or not they will feel themselves at liberty to vote for the motion as amended. I think that if Senator Pulsford thought there was any chance of the amendment being carried he would prefer to withdraw his motion and submit another in a more simple form.

Senator Pearce - If the honorable senator desires to raise the question of dealing with the matter by treaty it should .not be mixed up with any reference to our feelings towards Japan.

Senator O'KEEFE - Senator Pearce put his linger on the weak spot in the motion when he pointed out that we have no power under our Constitution to make treaties with foreign countries, and that it would mean that we should be prepared to depute our powers to the Imperial Government. I do not think that the majority of Australians would be likely to regard with satisfaction any proposal to hand over to another authority this important power conferred upon us by the Constitution. I can quite conceive that a number of people in Australia, who are not prepared to gp all the way with those who advocate the White Australia, policy, would still very seriously object to handing over, such very important powers intrusted to this Parliament under the Constitution to be exercised by the Imperial Government or Parliament. ' Senator Dobson interjected that we would, as a matter of course, indicate to the Imperial Government the nature of the treaty we desired ; but once we let the control of these matters go out of our hand we shall not know where we shall end. Although I cannot at all times agree politically with the> leader of the Opposition in the Senate, the honorable senator has always won my ardent admiration for being such an intense Australian, and for his determination that the rights conferred upon the Commonwealth bv the Imperial Parliament under our Constitution shall be preserved. I cannot imagine how that honorable senator could agree to hand over this portion of our rights to be dealt with by the Imperial authorities.

Senator Clemons - Nor can any one else. I do not think we should do so.

Senator Pulsford - No one proposes that.

Senator O'KEEFE - I suppose I should not anticipate, as honorable senators have not yet indicated their attitude towards either the motion or the amendment.' I mention that aspect of the question as it presents itself to me. I believe that we are all proud of the Constitution, and jealous of maintaining and preserving inviolate all the rights conferred by it. We should hesitate very much before we give any one else the power to dea.1 with matters of this kind, which is expressly reserved to us by the Constitution. It has been pointed out by Senator Pearce, and I do not think it can be denied, that if the motion were carried in the form proposed by Senator Pulsford, it would have to be given effect to by the Imperial Parliament, as we have not the power to make a treaty with a foreign country. I shall vote .for the amendment, which, I frankly admit, would take the heart out of the motion.

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